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Echoes of Russia 1917 as America judges Trump

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IS THE United States in a pre-revolutionary condition? It might sound implausible but some conservatives believe so. After all, Donald Trump is President only because he survived an illegal coup mounted against him by key parts of the machinery of government controlled by Democrats who never accepted his legitimacy.

The Democratic party, convinced it was robbed in 2016, is equally convinced that it will win the November election, the result of which might not be known for weeks. Trump, who is viscerally and sometimes hysterically hated by his opponents, has refused to say if he will abide by the outcome. Washington’s dispossessed elites, almost unanimously anti-Trump, will not easily bow to another defeat. The scene seems set for uncertainty and chicanery.

The volatile political situation is down not only to the vertiginous rise of Black Lives Matter and the riots that erupted across the country after the death of George Floyd. These are symptoms, not causes, of a significant shift leftward from the old political centre. What underlies them will not disappear if Trump wins.

Over several years, but recently rather quickly, socialism has gained an unprecedented following among the privileged young at Ivy League universities, the media, wealthy liberals and corporate America. In other words, the interlocking elites who create the political weather. Racial and social justice is what unites them.

During the Obama years, a lot was made of the 1971 Saul Alinsky book Rules for Radicals about ways to attack and bring down capitalism. Alinsky taught that a political target should be picked, frozen, personalised and polarised. This is what Democrats have done to Trump throughout his presidency with their relentless campaign of resistance by every means possible. Trump’s inability to control himself, it has to be said, has made him an unwitting collaborator.

Conservative commentators such as Michael Anton and Victor Davis Hanson are increasingly ringing alarm bells at the dangerous trends pulling an already polarised country even further apart. The electorate is informed by a mass media that supports only one party, and millions of dollars are flowing to the Left and its many social justice operations.

Helen Andrews at The American Conservative has attracted attention with a recent article entitled 2020 is Tumbling Toward 1917, a reference to the year of the two revolutions that brought the Soviet Union into being. Note that the headline wasn’t phrased as a question as it might have been considering the gravity of her proposition.

She quotes a Russian expert, Professor Gary Saul Morson, who told the Wall Street Journal in June: ‘It’s astonishingly like 19th and early 20th century Russia where basically the entire educated class felt you had to be against the regime or some sort of revolutionary.’

These are not demagogues firing from the lip on cable television. They are analysts giving considered opinions to a serious audience.

Revolutions are not necessarily violent. Thatcherism, which overthrew 35 years of cross-party socialist consensus, was a revolution achieved electorally that swept away a discredited order.

Comparing America today and Russia in 1917, there are similarities. Tsarist Russia had been in a pre-revolutionary situation for decades but the February revolution created itself from small beginnings. Workers striking about food shortages in St Petersburg appeared on the streets peacefully. What made the difference in 1917 is that they were joined by sympathetic army regiments who refused to obey their officers.

No one planned the revolution at that time. The obsolete edifice of Tsarism, robbed of the army’s protection, was abandoned by the civil elites and crumbled; weak government and the Duma lost control and willingly surrendered, according to Trotsky and Solzhenitsyn.

What Russia in 1917 shares with the United States today is a middle and upper middle class, the usual mainstay of the status quo, which condones and justifies political violence even though, in Russia’s case, it led to their utter destruction.

Another parallel with Russia has been the involvement of the Obama administration, the deep state, the intelligence services and the FBI in the criminal Russian collusion plot against Trump which originated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The discovery of this powerful combination has hollowed out trust in America’s institutions, as did the parties fighting each other in the Russian Duma.

Since Covid and its disruptions struck, Democrats have taught themselves to believe that Biden is certain to win this election. A growing number of conservatives have grudgingly come to agree with them. What happens if he doesn’t? It would be complacent to imagine the Left will fold its tents any more than it did in 2016.

And what if Biden wins? The US, under a figurehead, not to say puppet, president will have the most Left-wing government since FDR and a swathe of support from the most powerful entities in the country for the kind of socialism promoted by Bernie Sanders and the irrepressible Alexandra Ocasio-Cortes, who is the voice of young Americans.

The Marxist-led Black Lives Matter, a descendant of the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 70s, has become a power in the land to which all must defer. It appears to be one of a number of fronts for wealthy white donors who are at ease with the idea of America’s conversion to socialism. BLM is flush with cash from progressive businesses and individuals. According to the Tablet website, they include Peter Buffett, son of investment legend Warren Buffett.

An article in the Tablet uncovered a vast network of progressive groups, mostly operating out of public sight, which are financed by capitalist money and are dedicated to a vision of America revolutionised by ecological, racial and social justice. A Biden presidency would supercharge their activities.

The weeks after the election risk being a whirlpool of uncertainty in which ruthless forces in Washington will brush aside legal restraints in their fight for the White House whether it is theirs by right or not.

In the event, it may all be settled by judges as in 2000. But keep in mind that contested revolutions are usually captured by their worst extremists for whom violence is not an option but an imperative. It frightens conservatives, if not liberals, who are desperate to regain power at any cost, that in a febrile atmosphere like today’s, revolutions easily rush out of control. Naturally, it would be Trump’s fault.

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Donald Forbes
Donald Forbes is a retired Anglo-Scottish journalist now living in France who during a 40-year career worked in eastern Europe before and after communism.

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